April is National Poetry Month and Holocaust Month, but did you know it is also National Sexual Assault Awareness Month, which includes child sexual abuse? One in 3 girls and 1 in 7 boys will be sexually assaulted before they turn 18*. So to raise awareness of some children books to help prevent abuse, I decided to review A Very Touching Book written by Jan Hindman. This book is one of my favorites for teaching about appropriate touch for children in a way that is non-threatening to both adults and children. Jan wrote A Very Touching Book after working with victims and perpetrators of sexual abuse. Teaching children about sexual abuse is hard because as adults we often get embarrassed or as Jan puts it ‘purple faces’ when it comes to discussing sex.
First off the illustrations by Tom Novak are very cute and fun in a cartoon style and my daughter really likes them, which is always a plus. Jan first starts the book off with an explanation of what touching is – when two things come together. She then moves onto feelings – happy, sad, angry, scared and explains that different kinds of feelings help us understand different kinds of touching. I love that she defines good touching with – hugs, kisses, cuddling high fives, etc and what bad touching is kicking hitting, pushing, shoving, etc. I like this because I think using bad touch to teach about sexual abuse is confusing to children. Sex is not bad in of itself, its when an adult or older person sexually abuses a child that makes it bad. She then introduces a third kind of touching – secret touching.
Next she takes some time to explain to kids (and adults) what special parts are by name, using the correct terminology and pointed out to the reader that adults often get those purple faces when we talk about special parts and sometimes people use silly names.
First, while we are growing up. we keep those parts of our bodies very special and private. When we keep things special and private, that means we don’t share them with our friends, our neighbors or…for instance, the people at the supermarket.
and I love this explanation too
Remember, we don’t cover those parts because they are silly or ugly or nasty. We cover them and keep them private because they are special and like no other part of our body.
and particularly this phrase
The second reason that sharing of those parts is such a big deal is that grown-ups need to spend a lot of time thinking about who the special person will be that they decide to share their bodies with.
Jan explains in a very simple way what secrets are and that some are okay and others are not. Secret touching is not okay and
It happens when an older or bigger person touches a child’s special parts and makes it a secret . . . SECRET TOUCHING IS NOT OKAY FOR KIDS because kids have a right to keep those very wonderful parts of their bodies special and private, so that when they grow up and want to share those parts with someone special, it will be a terrific thing.
In addition to all this Jan Hindman goes through exceptions of when it would be okay for a grown-up to touch a child’s special parts – like going to the doctor, bathing and changing a diaper. Those are okay because they are not secrets and because sometimes grown-ups need to make sure you are healthy and a baby needs cleaning after she poops her pants. (And the illustrations here are hilarious Dad changing a diaper with clothespin on his nose, my daughter laughed!) After each of the scenarios for when it would be okay to have someone touch your special parts she asks the kid “is that a touching secret”? And the kid gets to answer by touching a red yes or a green no. My daughter really liked that part because it asked her to touch something, which is what the book is about and I liked it because I could help clarify for her when it would be okay for someone to touch her special parts.
Continuing Jan talks more about secret touching, why it’s wrong and who you could tell if it happens (police, teacher, parent, counselor, etc) and that a child has the right to say “NO” and to tell someone if it does happen.
I highly recommend this A Very Touching Book for kids ages 4-9. Now that said I know of a few friends who would appreciate knowing this about the book 1) there are cartoon illustrations with naked people, which I think they are tastefully done (kids are curious knowing the names of all their parts and what the opposite sex looks like is just part of growing up, it’s usually grown-ups who are uncomfortable with it) 2) we don’t keep this book with all the children books where any kid could read it (really I respect parent’s rights to determine how, when and what they to teach their children about this topic). It’s in a special spot for books like this in my room. We pull it out very few months or so and both my and my husband have read it with her and whenever she asks to look at the book we read it together. 3) There is a scene where a kid gets dirty over at grandpa and grandma’s house so he gets in the shower with grandpa and it’s okay touching because grandpa is helping him to get clean. For me this was not okay as too many abuse situations occur like this so I skip it and other reviewers have said the same thing.
Jan Hindman passed away in September 2007 to learn more about her and her other book There is No Sex Fairy go to the Hindman Foundation. For some other great resources on sexually abuse visit Stop It Now.
This review is part of Non-Fiction Monday hosted by Anastacia Suen at Picture Book of the Day.